You Can Tell Me if You Feel Shitty

We lie. Everyone does, and people with chronic illnesses do. I lie to my family and my friends when I can tell by their voices that they really want me to be doing well. When they say, "You must be feeling so much better now that the weather is warm!" I say, "Yeah, sure, it's good, it's okay." Even if I'm mid-relapse and thought about suicide twice yesterday because my body hurt and I started to think it always would.

And I lie to doctors sometimes when they really, really want their new treatment to have worked. And it didn't, not really. But I'll say that maybe it was a little improvement. Maybe 5%. Maybe it made a difference.

Maybe I should stop lying.

I don't want to lie, and I don't want you to have to, to feel that you have to, either. You can tell me if you feel shitty. If I say, "I hope you're feeling better," you can say, "I'm not. I feel like death. I feel like utter, complete shit and I can't imagine ever feeling better." And I can say, "Shit, I am so sorry you feel that way." And if we're close, I can suggest ways for you to think about things  that you have done in the past that helped, and I can offer help to you so that you can get what you need. That's what I'd want you to do for me.

 Here's the thing about listening: We can hear what people say, and really listen to their reality, without necessarily accepting their conclusions. When I'm feeling really sick, I often think to myself that I may not get better again, I may never have another upswing. For my particular illness, that is very unlikely. Much likelier that I will feel better again. Much likelier that I have forgotten a crucial element of my self-care routine or medication routine. But I will never figure that out if I have to keep telling people I'm okay. I need to say, sometimes, that I am really not okay. I need to say that so that I can say, "What do I do, now? What do I need to fix?"

And likewise, I need to know if you are feeling shitty so that I can hear you say what's wrong. And maybe you will tell me it's all hopeless, and I need to hear you and accept what you feel without accepting your conclusions. I need to be able to remind you that it's not necessarily hopeless. I need to remind you about picking up your meds. I need to remind you about your sister or your friend or your mom or your therapist who would be glad to talk to you and help if you just call. I need to remind you about your savings account that's meant to help with just this sort of thing. I need to remember the things you forgot about, because we all have a very selective vision about our own options, when we feel really bad.

So tell me if you are feeling shitty. Maybe we can figure something out.


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